All but one of my closest friends is a survivor of sexual assault. My mother and my best friend, the two women on this earth who are most important to me, are survivors. Some of these people experienced these atrocities before I knew them, and others confided in me shortly after their escape. Their stories came out slowly and sometimes shamefully, through a fog of confusion about what too many people will never mention. All of these people whom I hold closest to my heart have cried over a bodily invasion, a choice stolen, and a betrayal.
Subsequently, they have been forced to fight a culture which not only condones rape, but will not let them mourn. They have been exploited and abused by their perpetrators and by a society that invalidates and silences their experiences. FUCK THAT.
I have tipped past the point of sadness and into a realm of rage and indignation. No, this is not blind rage — it is a rage well educated and experienced — one which I know I do not bear alone. It is a rage towards the patriarchal culture which we all live in, a culture whose media and values accept rape. Once a pacifist, I no longer feel the staunch aversion to violent intervention. I would never raise a fist without a survivor’s consent, but as my knowledge and growth builds, so does my vehement thirst for retaliation.
In writing this, I am not trying to convince anyone of the validity of my words, of the truth. Fuck that. Here is not the place to fight that uphill battle. Rather, I am clutching to my rage and passion to urge survivors and allies: RISE UP, SPEAK OUT & FIGHT BACK
We need to fight back against anyone under notion that another’s body is their property. We are taught this myth that our partners are entitled to our bodies, and that sexual accommodation is part of the relationship experience. No matter how long folks have been in a relationship, or how positive an experience it has been, under no circumstances are their bodies each other’s property.
If you see this gross expectation in someone’s actions or language, you can take that opportunity to educate that person, or point them in the direction of an awesome zine (like Cindy Crabb’s Learning Good Consent Zine or Support Zine), if you feel comfortable doing so. We need to fight back against the coworker/peer/acquaintance/friend whose daily interactions clearly show their disregard for other’s boundaries. “Sexual Harassment” workshops in the workplace and in schools are not enough. Folks who are sexually harassing others and not respecting their spaces need to promptly and earnestly check themselves, or folks with privilege who witness these acts need to call them out! Calling someone out may look like a holding a forum for community discussion, telling the aggressor what is on your mind in a confrontational way, giving them a rad zine on boundaries, also forms of retaliation with direct action can be a fun alternative. One instance of boundary violation in our social spaces is one too much and perpetuates a culture that condones sexual violence.
We need to fight back against anyone who attempts to invalidate and negate another’s experience of sexual assault. If someone says they have been sexually assaulted, they have been sexually assaulted–only they can name their experience and no one else. If you hear someone negating or minimizing the experience of sexual assault, it is totally appropriate (if you feel comfortable) to call them out. As aforementioned, community discussions, offering educational resources, individually confronting their ignorance, or engaging in forms of direct action, can all be tools in effectively calling someone on their bullshit.
We need to fight back against an education that teaches people how to avoid rape rather than teaching others not to rape. It is ineffective and victim-blaming to teach people that they need to carry whistles and pepper spray, and that they should not wear certain clothing. When society asserts that attitudes of fear and oppression will lead to safety, it invalidates a survivor’s experience AND does not hold aggressors accountable. This type of “safety” education is unacceptable and cries out for reform. It would be awesome if consent workshops could be regularly held in community spaces and in schools. These consent workshops could focus on offering tools to explore and talk about boundaries, and on educating people about rape culture and how to resist the manifestations against this cultural norm!
We need to speak out against the myth of stranger danger. 2/3 of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivors, not an anonymous stranger hiding in the bushes. Someone can be sexually assaulted by their friend, acquaintance, or their partner.
It is time that this reality is asserted into community consciousness, and that people question their oppressive assumptions. We need to speak out against slut shaming and victim blaming. No matter the multitude of sexual encounters someones experiences, each one deserves to be consensual. Also, folks should wear what the fuck they want and go where the fuck they want– sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, no one is ever “asking for it”. There is NO behavior or appearance that conveys a desire to be violated.
We need to speak out against imposed gender roles and their intersection with sexual violence.
No sex assignment is indicative of sexual expectations and obligations. Alongside this concept, it’s important to combat the myth that men do not experience sexual violence. Men of all ages can experience sexual violence and it is asinine and invalidating that sexual violence has been labeled as strictly a “women’s issue.”
We need to rise up and form community support groups. These can look like safe spaces where boundaries, experiences, education, and healing are discussed. Holding a space of support and validation creates a stronger community, sheds light on the prevalence of sexual violence, and can be powerfully validating for a survivor. Explore spaces in your community that you can reserve for a day! Invite members of the community to create and attend consent workshops, or facilitate a community discussion about sexual violence and survivorship. A note of caution, sometimes it is helpful to conceal the location of the event until someone contacts you with an interest to attend, it is ultimately important to work towards creating a safe space for this event
We need to rise up and get together to discuss what community perpetrator accountability looks like. There are a million reasons why a survivor may not want to get the cops involved in their experience. Unfortunately, there is not enough discussion of what aggressor accountability looks like as an alternative to law enforcement. Restorative justice, which focuses on the needs of the survivor and their community instead of satisfying punitive avenues of “justice”, is not a common enough word in the current paradigm of aggressor accountability. Organize community forums to discuss what aggressor accountability and restoration looks like in your community! Our current culture uses patriarchal tools of oppression to condone sexual violence. Destroy what destroys you.